Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Presbyter in the Latin BCP

An addendum to the previous post on the etymology of the English term "priest": The Latin translation of the BCP authorised by Queen Elizabeth (1560), which does not include ordination services, uses presbyter five times, once in relation to the ministration of public baptism of infants (the equivalent at private baptism is Minister), once at the the giving of the ring during the solemnization of matrimony, and three times in the service of Holy Communion, namely before the two exhortations ("minister" in English) and in a rubric right at the end in which priests are distinguished from deacons (Presbyterii et Diaconi).

The Latin sacerdos is not used in the baptism services but once in the marriage service. It is used seven times in the Holy Communion service, namely in the rubrics before the Ten Commandments, the reading of the Epistle, the general Confession, the Absolution, the Prayer of Humble Access, the Prayer of Consecration, and the Blessing. It is also found about a dozen times in services in which presbyter makes no appearance (Visitation of the Sick, Communion of the Sick, Burial of the Dead, Morning and Evening Prayer), always in rubrics, except for the petition "Endue thy Ministers with righteousness" (Sacerdotes tui induanter Justitia, cf. its occurence in the Benedicite hymnus, also at Matins).

The (unauthorised) 1885 Latin translation of the 1662 Prayerbook show a greatly increased use of sacerdos with presbyter having dropped out of baptism and marriage services. In the Holy Communion service presbyter is used twice, in both instances presbyteri are distinguished from diaconi. By contrast, sacerdos is used about two dozen times. The only place in which presbyter is used prominently is in the ordination service which is not surprising, as it helps to distinguish one kind of sacerdos from another (the episcopus).

The 1571 and 1670 Latin translations of the Book of Common Prayer are not available online, as far as I can see. The latter, by Jean Durel, would be particularly interesting. Charles Marshall and William W. Marshall in chapter 2 (pp. 46-60) of The Latin prayer book of Charles II; or, an account of the Liturgia of Dean Durel, together with a reprint and translation of the catechism therein contained, with collations, annotations, and appendices (Oxford: James Thornton, 1882) comment on Durel's preference for the term presbyter as due to its lack of sacrificial connotations. Presumably Marshall and Marshall think that sacerdos carried such connotations by that time, even though they believe that in the early church sacerdos referred to a person in holy orders, including deacons.

J. Robert Wright in the chapter on "Early Translations" in The Oxford Guide to The Book of Common Prayer: A Worldwide Survey, edited by Charles Hefling, Cynthia Shattuck (OUP, 2006), pp. 56-60, in reviewing the various Latin and Greek versions of the Book of Common Prayer comments that "there is no strict consistency as to how such words as 'priest', 'presbyter', or 'minister' are to be translated, and the confusion has given rise to much unnecessary theological speculation" (pp. 56-57).